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Libyan Writer Khairi Aboushagor
الكاتب الليبي خيري أبوشاقور

Khaeri Aboushagor

Sunday, 21 Februray, 2010

A Salute to Al Ahli (Trablus)

Khaeri Aboushagor

As a special Salute to the old Libyan nadi (club) of Al Ahli (Tripoli), to its new generation of players and managers, to the fans and to the Al Baruni Club in Manchester and its young players, I am making public these private photos which I took in Libya in 2008.

I have taken these photographs while attending a football match on 26th Nov. 2008 between Al Ahli (Tripoli) and Taraji (Espérance, Tunis). The match was staged in the 11th of June stadium which is certainly one of Tripoli's enduring landmarks for many decades. This visit was my first since attending the final match of the African Nations cup between Ghana and Libya in the summer of 1982.

When I was young, my family’s house was very close to the stadium and this visit brought back many memories. Many of the activities of my childhood and teenage years were centred around this stadium and the beautiful green grounds that surrounded it.

I vividly remember my best friend jumping off the second floor breaking both arms after the army surrounded the chuck-full stadium in 1977 and arrested any one who did not have an id or a document on him to prove his army conscription status. I was lucky to have something on me to prove I was a secondary school student. My friend escaped but paid heavily for that. A few months after this incident, he left Libya for good and had never been back since. I spoke to him recently to encourage him to go back and visit his family, but to no avail. Nothing in this world seem to have the power to convince him that things may have changed in Libya!

It is remarkable that the 11th of June stadium had passed the test of time and stood still exactly as when it was designed and built in the late 1960's by Yugoslavian architects and engineers. Even the huge analogue clock and display board still stand as it did for more than 40 years, albeit it seems to have come to the end of its life at a midnight hour sometime ago. A newer digital display board had been erected (actually, I sat just underneath it) but unfortunately it was not functional during my visit. I wonder if it ever did, given that the name of the Hungarian manufacturer is prominently and visibly written on its front: "Made by MT-Visual Limited".

To see higher resolution versions of these photos please visit:

The camera used was a Canon SLR (fitted with a Tamron Zoom Wide Angle-Telephoto 28-300mm bought in 1995 and using Kodak Gold 200 film) and a Kodak Z700 digital camera fitted with a Neutral Density filter)

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The western side of 11th June Stadium, facing Gurji and Ben Mansour villages (all surrounding areas used to be called villages). In the old days this used to be the ticketing office which was very tidy and well organised.

Here it can be seen that voluntary queuing is an alien concept to Libyan young men. Although no one can get inside the stadium without a ticket, people have to use their muscle strength to gain a place in the queue, even if it means jumping the queue literally by climbing on top of the fences (no chance for ladies here). We stood for more than an hour in a very long queue which did not move an inch, despite people being let-in to the stadium on the watchful eye of the police. I had to personally intervene by speaking to the anti-riot police commander who took immediate action to solve the problem. I was told this is new in Libya, because in the old days police commanders did not speak to ordinary people to solve a problem! No question about it: this is real progress.

We had to turn up four hours before the start of the match to secure a seat inside the stadium.

Al Ahli supporters filling the stadium while the few Taraji fans can be seen chanting and dancing. The area surrounding them was either empty or full of anti-riot police for fear of them being attacked by the Ahli Fans. They were indeed attacked and abused by very few hooligans after the match ended, completely unjustifiably. I heard in 2009 Libyan fans were attacked in Tunisia very badly. No surprise here: Tit for tat!?

Some of Al Ahli's supporters. Almost all of the 80 thousand people inside the stadium were Ahli supporters, bar about 100 people or so who supported l'éspérance.

Another view of the supporters and of the newly erected and non-functional digital display board which we sat underneath.

A closer shot of the few of l'éspérance supporters. They were making noises non-stop throughout the match, and sometimes louder than the 80,000 or so Ahli supporters. They did a good job supporting their team and keeping their spirits high which resulted in them and their team going home as winners.

Just before the match started it turned completely dark and the flood lights were switched on. In the 1970s, when a match is played at night all the surrounding villages were lit so much that it resembled day light.

Another wide shot of the stadium before the match started. At the far end, the old analogue clock can be seen standing as it did for more than 40 years.

Another wide shot while the match in full swing, with some of the Ahli fans cheering and waving in an attempt to invigorate their. It is a shame that the fans and the players were playing a kind of cat and mouse game: The players needed the fans to support them and lift their spirits on the field no matter what, while the fans will not do that until the players provide them with some outstanding performance. This was in complete contrast to the support the Tunisian fans gave to their team all the way, irrespective of how they played in the field.

Good goal defending by the Taraji goal keeper. The Libyans lost the match on their home ground through penalties.

Ahli fans with their green flags and baseball caps.

Some fireworks display from a young Ahli supporter

Father and son.. Ahli forever.

More fireworks from the new generation of Al Ahli supporters

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